Obama Denounces North Carolina Muslim Deaths as FBI Probes

U.S. President Barack Obama denounced the killings this week of three Muslim college students in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, elevating scrutiny of the incident to the national level after an outcry by Muslim Americans.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation opened an investigation on Thursday into the shooting deaths, in addition to inquiries being conducted by local authorities, Obama said in a statement released on Friday by the White House.

“The FBI is taking steps to determine whether federal laws were violated,” Obama said in the statement. “No one in the United States of America should ever be targeted because of who they are, what they look like, or how they worship.”

Obama issued his statement after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who called the killings a terrorist act, criticized the U.S. leader for failing to speak out on the incident. Erdogan accused the U.S. of a “double standard” in its approach to terrorism.

The U.S. would lose the right to speak out against Islamic State terrorism if it didn’t also condemn violence against Muslims, he said. A group of Muslims protested on Friday outside the White House before Obama’s statement was released.

Michael Hicks, 46, is charged with first-degree murder after gunning down Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, Deah Shaddy Barakat and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha this week. Local authorities have said Hicks had a parking dispute with the victims.

The U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division is working with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of North Carolina and the FBI to assess if hate-crime laws were violated in the case, said Dena Iverson, a Justice Department spokeswoman, in an e-mail.

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